Mid-Atlantic Brewing News June/July 2005

Frederick Lauer: 'Arise at Two in the Morning and Commence to Brew...'

 By Rich Wagner

 Frederick Lauer was a boy of twelve when he and his family landed in Baltimore in 1823. They walked to Reading, Pennsylvania, and stayed briefly with family before moving to nearby Womelsdorf where his father established a five-barrel brewery.

 In the spring of 1826 the family moved to Reading, where they converted an old log cabin on Chestnut Street into another five-barrel brewery. Five years later the cabin was replaced with a larger brewery for the production of ale and porter. In 1835 Frederick replaced his father as proprietor, and the business grew by leaps and bounds.

 Here is a description of his routine:

 Arise at two in the morning and commence to brew, which finish about daybreak, then came morning meal, afterward a one-horse conveyance was loaded up with quarters, halves and barrels, and delivered around the town to the other retailers; then came the other incidental duties of the brewing, the whole supplemented by attention at the bar in the saloon until a late hour at night.

 Frederick Lauer brewed Reading’s first lager beer in 1844 and directed the excavation of extensive beer vaults. He drilled an artesian well adjacent to which he laid out Lauer Park, and in 1866 he built Lauer's North Park Brewery across the street.

 In July of 1862 the government enacted legislation to tax brewers and distillers at a rate of $1 per barrel for the purpose of financing the Civil War. The brewers didn't like being lumped together with distillers, and they and much of the population did not see beer as a luxury, but as a necessary foodstuff. Secondly, in the days before artificial refrigeration, beer was brewed in the winter and spring, so the summer's stock had already been brewed and stored, with contracts having fixed the price with customers prior to the enactment of the tax.

 The nation's brewers were patriotic men who wanted to support their government in time of war, but felt there must be a more equitable system of taxation. Frederick Lauer was among the first group of brewers who went to Washington to speak with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue about their concerns, to no avail.

 It was for these reasons that brewers convened in New York City in August to form an organization which would represent their interests in Washington. Frederick Lauer led the proceedings and a group alternately known as the Lager Beer Brewers Association, the National Brewers Association, or the Brewers Congress was formed. Lauer presided over the first five annual meetings and was recognized as the organization's honorary president until he died in 1883.

 The brewers did get satisfaction over what they considered an unjust tax, even if it took seven years to get reimbursed. The group worked with the government to establish the Internal Revenue law and many other regulatory issues, and even saw to it that there was a Brewers’ Hall at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 (despite opposition from temperance groups). The organization became known as the United States Brewers Association and survives today as the Beer Institute, which gives voice to the industry's concerns in Washington D.C.

 After a lifetime of service, both to the citizens of Reading and to the nation's brewers, Frederick Lauer gave his farewell address at the Twenty-third Convention of the U.S.B.A. in Detroit in May of 1883. It was his last convention and the following year a committee was formed to have a statue erected in his honor in the City Park in Reading, a lasting tribute to the man the brewers  proclaimed "the father of our industry."

 Frederick Lauer conducted a reporter on a tour through his brewery in a story that appeared in the Boston Journal of Commerce in 1874.